mission-aransas national estuarine research reserve, university of texas


2019, 2020, 2021


Port Aransas, TX

Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve

Nurdle Patrol: A Citizen Science Project

The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute has initiated a Gulf-wide Citizen Science Project to map plastic pellets (often called nurdles) around the Gulf of Mexico. Nurdles are small plastic pellets that are manufactured as the basis for all plastic products. This project is developing an interactive mapping website, NurdlePatrol.org, where volunteers collecting nurdles can add their data and see results in real-time. The site will also be a hub for plastic pellet pollution information with the ultimate goal of raising awareness of nurdle pollution to empower change at the state and federal level.

SCOPE 2021
  • Undertake scientific research to understand how many possible spills of nurdles, in terms of batches or manufacturers, have occurred over time, as detected within a single set of samples from citizen science Nurdle Patrol collections.
  • Identify and advance further regulation of nurdle pollution along the Mississippi River where Nurdle Patrol believes there could be a high concentration of spills, by working with volunteers and stakeholders in that region.
  • Systematic analysis of Nurdle Patrol datasets of over 5,400 coastal nurdle surveys to enhance understanding of seasonality, abundance, distribution, and other factors exacerbating nurdle pollution.
  • Develop effective science communication channels to publish nurdle patrol data and analysis for the biggest impact on science and general awareness.
    Provide guidance to specific local, state, and federal agencies on how to strengthen regulations on nurdle production, processing, and transportation.
SCOPE 2019-2020
  • Develop an interactive mapping website where volunteers can share nurdle data to raise awareness and be used by state and federal agencies to help find the sources of plastic pellet pollution.
  • Expand the existing grassroots citizen science program to monitor beaches along the Gulf of Mexico for nurdles that are used by manufacturers to make plastic goods.
  • Embark on a Nurdle Expedition across the Gulf of Mexico, giving presentations and encouraging local groups to conduct nurdle surveys in communities across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
  • Collect data at beaches that have never been surveyed for plastic pellets to fill the data gaps and create a full picture of the concentrations of nurdles on beaches across the Gulf.
  • Create a video about the Nurdle Expedition, highlighting the importance of the nurdle issue, the experience of meeting with communities, and the impact citizen scientists are having on the decision making process with their data.

About the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve

Founded in 2006, The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve is managed by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and located in Port Aransas, Texas. The Reserve’s mission is to bring together scientists, landowners, policy-makers, and the public to ensure that coastal management decisions benefit flora and fauna, water quality, and people.

Photo credit: University of Texas Marine Science Institute

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